My First Taste - Ep 8 Ephemeral

by Aelora
http://www.fandomchicks.com/lexcorp/smallvilleau.htm


MY FIRST TASTE
EPISODE EIGHT

"Ephemeral"

With each word your tenderness grows
Tearin' my fear apart
And that laugh... wrinkles your nose
Touches my foolish heart ~

Their lives were changing, and even with all of her abilities, there was nothing Hudson could do to stop it.

She gazed through the rain at the silent crowd of mourners that gathered around Dan Fordman's grave. Her eyes met Whitney's red-rimmed ones, and she found she couldn't even offer him a sympathetic smile. Nothing. She looked away first, uncertain of how one is supposed to behave to someone who just lost a parent far too soon in life. Hudson couldn't imagine losing either of hers - she didn't even want to contemplate it.

The death of Whitney's father had hit Jonathan Kent hard. They'd been friends since early childhood, playing on the football team together through junior high and high school, attending one another's weddings, watching their own children grow up in the same small town they did. He'd been so silent the past few days, looking through old photo albums and, when he did speak, it was only to say how short life was and he would gaze at Hudson with an expression she couldn't begin to identify. Regret? Fear? She hadn't bothered asking her mother about it, since Martha seemed as affected by Dan's death as her husband was. With no one to help her understand, Hudson had simply withdrawn into her own silent musings, wondering if life would ever return to normal.

With that thought, Hudson's gaze drifted over to Lana, who was standing solemnly beside her boyfriend, eyes free of tears though her own pain was evident. In the past week, it seemed like the weight of the world had settled over the girl's shoulders. Last weekend, she had confessed to Hudson that she was considering breaking up with Whitney - they seemed to have drifted apart over the past few months, and now that his student loans were approved for college, he would be leaving for Manhattan in the Fall to attend K-State. Long distant relationships were difficult, especially when there wasn't much holding them together in the first place. His father's health had improved, Whitney seemed happier and Lana just believed it would be a good time to explain her feelings to him and end it.

Then, just as she built up the strength to talk to him, Whitney came to her with the news that his father had passed away. Lana called Hudson that night in tears, torn between wanting her own happiness and wanting to be there for Whitney. They had been so close, meant so much to each other. Even if she didn't feel what she once did for him, she couldn't abandon him now when he needed her most.

Hudson hadn't known what to say. She could understand Lana's wish not to hurt Whitney further but she couldn't live her life for him. She had commented that if Lana felt it wasn't right, why should she continue to put herself through the stress of pretending everything was perfect? Her friend had just cried harder into the phone and Hudson remained silent after that, knowing she likely wouldn't say the right thing in this situation, no matter what she said. She'd never had a boyfriend, so she couldn't exactly place herself in Lana's shoes. But if this were her and Lex... well, that didn't fit either. She couldn't imagine herself ever not wanting to be a part of his life.

Not that such a thing was ever going to happen. As much as Hudson led herself to believe that Lex did want her in the same way, that he did care for her - especially after the rose he had gifted her with on Valentine's - she finally had come to the realization that it was only wishful thinking. In fact, if anything, Lex seemed to be pulling away from her more and more each passing week. She'd hardly seen him since her birthday, when he'd given her the adorable puppy she named AJ. While Hudson told herself he was busy with the Plant and his father's increasing demands, her heart feared that work had nothing to do with it. A conversation with Dodd the week before had only cemented that fear deeper into her mind.

She had stopped by to ask Lex about possibly securing some tickets to the journalism conference for her and Chloe, only to find out that he wasn't home. Dodd was sitting at the kitchen table, peeling potatoes and drinking tea. He invited Hudson to sit down for a while, then proceeded to tell her everything that was going on at the mansion. Sometimes, Hudson believed Dodd had to be the biggest gossip in town - worse than Maggie Saunders, at least when it came to goings-on within the Luthor household. Apparently, Lex's nanny from his childhood had resurfaced and, if Hudson understood correctly, her appearance wasn't necessarily a good thing. Dodd didn't go into too many details, but she got the general idea that this Pamela Jenkins had been very important to Lex when he was a child before the cook quickly proceeded to curse out Lionel Luthor in what sounded like Russian. Hudson figured that if she continued to hang out with Lex's cook, eventually she would be able to cuss all she wanted to at home and her parents would never know what she was saying.

Whatever the full story was, it seemed that Lex had cared about Pamela, and Lionel had something to do with her leaving. What Hudson wanted was for Lex to explain it all to her, to share with her like they had in the past - although, admittedly, he had never really gone out of his way to share his memories with her, not without quite a bit of pressure on her part.

The day after talking to Dodd, Lex stopped by the farm. Hudson was curled up on the couch, reading through `Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus'. Lana had suggested that she might be able to find something helpful in it regarding Lex's behavior. Unfortunately, it didn't seem to have the answers she was looking for. Men might have been from Mars but Lex wasn't your typical male. She figured he was more than likely from Saturn or something. And, of course, it didn't say anything about the behavior patterns of a female alien from.... Well, wherever she happened to be from.

She looked up as the floorboards creaked under Lex's step. Setting the book beside her thigh on the couch, she flashed him a smile. "Hey, Lex. What are you doing here so late?"

"I came to talk to your parents about the settlement," he replied, moving the flaps of his coat out of the way as he took the seat beside her. "We were talking when there was a phone call so I thought I would come out and say hi. What are you reading?"

Hudson didn't immediately answer, reflecting on the fact that he had really stopped by to see her parents and not her. What had happened? Had she done something to push him away? Or maybe he was simply changing his mind about her. Maybe her sixteenth birthday had really hit her age home with him.

When she didn't say anything, Lex reached out and picked up the book, glancing over it. "Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus?" He flashed a look of amusement at her. "Don't tell me this is a class assignment."

"Lana suggested it," Hudson told him quickly. "Since I've never had a boyfriend or anything, I thought I could try to learn something... you know, since I'm older now."

Lex still appeared amused. "I seriously doubt you'll find anything helpful in here. Anything specific on your mind?"

Hudson was extremely uncomfortable with the topic of conversation. Shifting a little to tuck a leg beneath her, she told him, "I don't know. Just... do guys fall in love the way girls do? Do they feel the same kind of things? And if not, why bother? Wouldn't men and women be happier without love if it's such a hassle? Wouldn't it be safer to just... stay friends and use sperm clinics?"

Laughing a little, Lex shook his head. "Hudson, love isn't about playing it safe. It's about risks. Unless you're willing to put yourself out there, you'll never know. I doubt that book is going to teach you anything helpful. It takes experience."

"Have you ever been in love before?" She asked quietly, afraid to hear the answer but curious all the same.

"I've only loved two women in my life," Lex told her with a small smile. He nodded a little. "One died and the other betrayed me."

Who was he referring to? She wondered. Was the one who died his mother? Or could it have been that Amanda girl who killed herself? And the one who betrayed him? Surely he couldn't mean Victoria! Hudson was confused.

Unable to think of anything else to say, she finally replied, "I'm sorry."

Lex shrugged. "Some people are meant to be alone."

And that response had hurt the most. It couldn't have been anything other than a specific message he was trying to send her.

The conversation ended when Hudson's mom had arrived to tell her that Principle Kwan had been killed. The first tragedy of the week. Everything had gone down hill from there.

Hudson was pulled from her musings when she felt her father's hand against her back. Looking up, she offered him a small smile which he returned while shuffling a little closer to both her and her mother, sheltering them all under the big, black umbrella he held. He looked so tired, older than his forty-two years. She made a mental note to take care of all of the chores in the morning before he woke up. It wasn't much, but maybe her father could try to rest a little for the day. Sighing softly, Hudson shifted her feet in the wet grass, uncomfortable as water seeped in through the tiny hole in the bottom of her shoe. She glanced to her right to find Chloe watching her, and they smiled at one another briefly.

Did friendships simply become more difficult as people grew older?

When Hudson had first met Chloe, their friendship formed from a natural curiosity about one another, followed by a sharing of interests - movies, books, television, boys. They could spend hours on the phone or sitting up late at night during sleepovers, talking about everything and nothing. There was never any cause for petty jealousy or arguments between them. Perhaps they were too different from one another for such things to occur.

In the past few months though, they argued quite a bit. Hudson was at a loss to explain what changed, but she was beginning to wonder if it wasn't all her fault. Their recent fight - their worst yet - began with Chloe accusing her of spending too much time with Lex and Lana. That she had tossed aside her oldest and best friends for new ones, new ones that Chloe implied wouldn't stick around for her. While Hudson understood Chloe's anger (it was her fault that she forgot to sign up for the tickets to the journalism conference) she definitely disagreed that Chloe had any right to blame it on Lex and Lana. She'd been spending time with them, true, but that didn't mean she was going to forget all about Pete and Chloe. It simply made time more limited. And apparently, she was very, very bad at managing her time correctly.

Hudson still blamed herself for everything that happened with Justin attacking Chloe. If she hadn't given Chloe reason to be angry with her, to go off and attach herself to the first boy who blinked at her in order to get back at Hudson for spending so much time with Lex, then Chloe would have been safe. Instead, her friend had almost been killed. Realistically, there was nothing that could be done to fix the situation from Hudson's standpoint. She wasn't going to give up on Lex or Lana - Chloe and Pete were just going to have to adjust to the fact that she had other friends now. What she didn't understand was why they couldn't all get along? Okay, so maybe Lex was a little outside the circle but that didn't mean they had to completely ignore him. No matter their individual opinions might be.

As the priest finished with his last prayer, Jonathan touched Hudson's shoulder to indicate that it was time to go. Nodding a little, she glanced once more towards Lana and their eyes met. Lana stared at her for a long moment before smiling a little then turned and followed Whitney and his mother towards the limousine.

Moving to fall in step behind her parents, Hudson ignored her father's soft comment that she needed to join them under the umbrella - she was getting wet. What did it matter? She wondered. The rain wouldn't hurt her. So far, the only thing that seemed capable of hurting her didn't even come from this planet.

Well, at least when it came to hurting her physically. She was learning fairly quickly that there were quite a few people out there capable of hurting her emotionally. Quite deeply, as a matter of fact.

"Hudson?"

At the familiar voice, Hudson stopped and looked to her left to see Lex standing at the edge of the cemetery, hands shoved into the pockets of his black coat, looking as miserable as she felt. What was he doing here?

"H.C."

She turned at her father's voice to see that he and her mother had stopped and were waiting for her. The familiar glance of disapproval from her father was cast in Lex's direction and Hudson's frustration mounted. Why did they have to do this to her? If Lex had come all the way to the cemetery to look for her, then he obviously needed to speak to her. Didn't they understand that?

"I'll be home later," she called out, ignoring the frown from her father as she turned and headed towards the cemetery exit.

Rarely did she outright defy her parents, but the past two weeks had been horrible - positively horrible - and she just needed to get away for a while, to immerse herself in the one person who she thought understood, just a little.

"Lex," she greeted as she approached, speaking a little more loudly than usual to be heard above the rain, which was beginning to fall harder. "What are you doing here?"

Like her, Lex was without an umbrella. The rain fell over his bare scalp, running down his neck into the collar of his dress shirt, soaking it. He didn't seem to notice though, reaching out as Hudson neared him to sweep some of the water from her brow.

"I... wanted to see you," he told her. He looked back out towards the cemetery where her mother and father had hesitated only a moment longer before continuing on. "Do you need to go home?"

"No." She shook her head, blinking as water fell into her eyes.

Lex nodded his head toward the Jaguar that was parked a few feet away, engine running, wipers moving back and forth across the windshield. "Come on. Let's get out of the rain."

Hudson hurried over to the passenger side, climbing in and shutting the door gently behind her, letting out a breath of relief at the warmth inside the car. She looked over at Lex as he slid in beside her, leaning back in his seat, making no move to take the car out of park.

"I'm sorry to hear about Whitney's father. I didn't know Mr. Fordman very well but he seemed like a good man who loved his family very much."

"Yeah. Dad said he was one of the better citizens in Smallville," Hudson replied quietly. She brushed some wet strands of hair off her face and gave Lex a soft smile when she caught him looking over at her. "He'll be missed."

Lex nodded, turning his gaze out the windshield. "I haven't talked with you in a while, Hudson. I mean, really talked." He looked back over at her. "I'm sorry. It's just... " He trailed off and shook his head a little, as if uncertain how to finish the sentence.

"I've missed you," she admitted. "But I figured you've been busy."

"Would you believe hiding?" He glanced back over at her and flashed a sad smile.

"Hiding? I don't understand."

"Sometimes, when you don't want to face the world, to face the mistakes you've made and the people you've hurt and the uncertainty of tomorrow... it's just easier to hide."

Concern filling her, Hudson reached out and laid her hand over Lex's gloved one. "Lex, what is it? What's wrong?"

Silence filled the car and Hudson wondered if maybe he didn't plan on telling her when he finally replied, "I've recently lost someone, too."

"Who?"

"Pamela Jenkins." He glanced down at their hands and his thumb moved up to caress the underside of her palm. "She was my nanny. And my last link to my mother... "

Attempting to hide her confusion at the death of a woman who had just reappeared in his life, Hudson squeezed the hand beneath hers and leaned over to lay her head against the wet shoulder of his coat. "I'm sorry, Lex. I'm so sorry."

"I said some things to her... " He didn't complete the sentence.

Remaining silent, Hudson continued holding his hand, staring at the wipers as they scraped the rain from of the window. Moments later, she felt Lex's head lean against her own and his shoulders moved beneath her cheek in a sigh. The comfortable silence continued between them, only the soft hum of the engine and the whirr of the wipers as they worked, breaking it.

Finally, Lex shifted a little beneath Hudson's cheek. "Can you come back to the mansion?"

"Yes." She lifted her head and met his eyes as he gazed at her. "I'll call Mom when we get there to tell her where I am so she doesn't worry."

Lex tried to smile but it didn't work. Instead, he nodded a little as Hudson shifted back fully into her seat, and he took the car out of park and headed out of the cemetery parking lot.


When they arrived at the mansion, they first stopped by the kitchen where Lex asked Dodd to prepare something for Hudson to eat. She inquired if he would be joining her, but Lex commented he wasn't in the mood for food. She'd given him an expression that clearly asked if he was insane and how could one ever not be in the mood to eat. Offering nothing in the way of explanation, Lex simply looked on in silence as Dodd proclaimed to Hudson that he believed he had just the meal for her - then ended up serving a fat bacon cheeseburger with all the trimmings. It actually appeared big enough to feed a small army, but Hudson finished the whole thing, along with a root beer float. As they left the kitchen for the study, the cook handed her another float to take with her. She appeared more than pleased.

A few minutes after they settled into the study, Hudson began plying him with questions about Pamela and growing up with her as his nanny. At first, Lex had balked at replying but gradually he warmed to it, finding comfort in the memories of her, and the ability to be able to share with someone. Especially without the need to repress those times that meant the most to him.

"Did she ever go on Space Mountain again?"

Lex smiled and shook his head. "No. Pamela decided to spend her days by the pool while mom and I enjoyed the rest of Disney."

Hudson chuckled and returned to her root beer float while Lex watched her, his smile slowly fading as his thoughts returned to his first and only trip to Disney World. With the three of them out of his father's reach, they were all free to relax and have the time of their lives. It was the summer before the meteor shower, and Lex knew it was the last truly happy time of his life.

Taking another sip of his brandy, his gaze drifted back to Hudson, where she sat across from him, on the floor, leaning back against the leather chair. He watched silently as she licked vanilla ice cream from her spoon then shoved it back into the glass, swirling the vanilla and root beer together to create a horribly disgusting looking mixture. She seemed to enjoy it though, so Lex didn't comment on it. She'd already successfully spilled a drop on the front of her black blouse, which Lex figured was probably her mother's anyway because it was a little too mature for her appearance. Like a little girl playing dress up - something wasn't right. The black skirt fell to her mid-calf, properly understated and respectful for the day's occasion. She'd slipped her shoes and stockings off shortly after entering the study and Lex stared at her feet as her toes wiggled against the floor.

"Lex?"

Snapping from his reverie, he glanced up to find Hudson watching him, the now-empty glass discarded beside her. Her expression was troubled, her lower lip sticking out thoughtfully. "What is it, Angel?"

"Why... " She sighed, dropping her eyes to the floor, a furrow appearing between her eyes. Finally, she asked, "Why didn't you tell me about Pamela before? Why now?"

He worked his jaw for a moment while he considered her question. His eyes focused on the brandy in the bottom of his glass and he shook the glass slightly, watching as the amber liquid swirled around the edges. "I... was ashamed, I guess. For years I've believed that I meant nothing to her, that she only cared about the money and the power she could earn while looking after the Luthor brat." Lex smiled sadly. "I suppose a part of me didn't want you to know that so few people in my life have ever given a damn about me... especially those who meant the most to me."

"That's not true!" Hudson denied vehemently, sounding positively outraged at him for saying such a thing. "Lex, I'm sure - "

"Hudson, don't." He cut her off with a shake of his head. "Please? You haven't... You only see what you want to see. Sometimes you blind yourself to the truth. And I'm not saying there's anything wrong with that, for now, while you're still young. But please don't try to deny what I know to be true. You haven't lived my life. And I wouldn't ever want you too, not even through my own memories."

She grew silent and looked away and Lex knew he'd said too much and wished he could take it back. Sometimes it seemed that he delighted in stamping down on her naivety, picking apart at the innocence that naturally colored her nature, turning the vibrant rose Hudson viewed as life to somber black. He hated himself for that, just as he occasionally hated her for forcing him to do it. He wanted to apologize and knew he wouldn't. Instead, the silence stretched between them and Lex knew he should probably tell her to go home, but he didn't do that either. He just glowered into his brandy and pondered as to why he went searching for her at the cemetery in the first place.

There hadn't been a funeral for Pamela. She had no family - no one but him - and her last wishes were to be buried beside her parents in their family plot located just outside Metropolis. Lex took care of everything, buying her the most beautiful casket and headstone that he could find, staying with her through all of it, even as they lowered her body into the ground. His father had sent flowers but Lex had tossed them into the garbage - he doubted that Pamela would have appreciated any kind of sentiment from Lionel Luthor. She was too honest an individual for that.

And now she was gone. His last link to his mother, the last person who truly understood him, who truly understood how much he needed Lillian Luthor, how much he missed her. He hadn't been given the time to make up the past nine years to her, to tell her how sorry he was, to erase the pain that his father had caused both of them. The last time he'd felt this alone... he'd been standing beside his mother's grave, his father's hand on his shoulder, voice in his ear: Don't cry, son. Luthor's don't cry. It makes us look weak.

Dammit, he wasn't going to cry this time. He hadn't broke down in years, not since his mother's death, and he should be used to this, and fuck that burning in his eyes, which could only be averted by the burning in his throat as he angrily tossed back his brandy.

"Lex... "

He'd almost forgotten that she was still here.

Looking up, Lex found that Hudson had moved closer, that she was on her knees, moving across the floor to him and god, he shouldn't find that so sexy. She had no idea what she was doing and he gripped the glass of brandy harder in his hand, stifling the urge to throw it at her, hurt her and yell at her for being so damned innocent and beautiful. And then she was climbing into his lap, straddling his thighs, her hands cupping his face, soft fingers caressing his skin, blue-green eyes so fucking intent on his.

"I give a damn," she whispered.

And Lex tried not to break with her words, even as her mouth closed over his, warm lips offering comfort he hadn't expected. Not from her. Hudson had never made the first move. Her innocence, as always, was captivating to him. The kiss was uncertain, inexperienced, and absolutely perfect. Lex remained unmoving, allowing her to direct and lead them, the glass finally tumbling from his hand when her tongue brushed hesitantly across his lips and he opened his mouth, inviting her in, arms moving around her waist, pulling her closer.

Her hair smelled like apples, but her tongue was like honey, the taste over-powering even the flavor of root beer and vanilla ice cream. Everything about her was so warm and inviting - Lex wanted to climb inside her, knowing instinctively that once inside, he would be safe and protected forever. Would it scare her to know that? That he longed to climb inside, to even become her? He dreamed of that sometimes - walking around in her skin, sharing every aspect of her life, always being warm, knowing true laughter, real joy again. But then, he would miss out on this.

Lex tried not to make a sound of disappointment as Hudson broke the kiss. He opened his eyes to find her watching him, still so close he could count each individual eyelash.

"Don't push me away, Lex," she pleaded quietly. "I want to be here, like this, with you. I'm not so young that I don't know this."

"This is so wrong, Angel." Lex reached up to thread his fingers through her hair, watching as the strands curled possessively around his wrist. If there was a Hell, he most certainly had a reservation there.

Hudson shook her head. "No, it isn't. It doesn't feel wrong to me." She hesitated a moment, and bit her lip, and Lex's eyes followed the motion as he contemplated biting it for her. "Does it feel wrong to you?"

Lex's fingers tightened in her hair as he pulled her closer. "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak," he quoted before giving himself over completely to the temptation the girl/woman in his lap offered, and reclaimed her mouth.

He never really liked `rules' anyway.

If the kiss offered by Hudson had been about comfort, the one Lex took was all about surrender and possession. He wasn't certain what this was or where it would lead them but he knew he wanted it. And he wanted her. There was no reason to deny himself any longer. The guilt was there and Lex doubted there would be much to make it go away - he was the last person who should be touching someone like her. Then again, he had to often remind himself that Hudson wasn't perfect. He'd caught her in lies, he knew she still lied to him, but that didn't negate the fact that there was something about her that drew him in, something that he couldn't ignore. Be it the mystery that surrounded her or the fact that she was always there when he needed her to be, he couldn't bring himself to simply walk away. Truthfully, there was a purpose behind every person Lex allowed to get close to him. Sometimes he wondered if he wasn't using Hudson as well.

Moving away from her mouth, Lex continued across her jaw to her ear, where he gathered the lobe between his teeth gently, tongue lapping at it, satisfaction washing over him as he felt her body tremble. Her hands moved behind his neck, up to cradle the back of his head, and he tried not to flinch away from the touch, silently reminding himself who this was and that she would never hurt or degrade him for his freakishness. Surprisingly, he felt himself begin to relax beneath her touch, her curious fingers moving over his scalp, her mouth tentatively pressing against his temple, his eyebrow, his forehead. Her kisses were tender, slightly insecure, undeniably sweet. Lex tightened his grip around her waist, fighting back the rising desire building within, telling himself he absolutely would not allow an erection even as he felt his cock grow hard beneath the warmth of her inner thighs as she pressed against him. He found himself wondering what kind of panties she was wearing and pictured something pink, cotton, with maybe little flowers or polka dots on them and dammit, what was it about that image that turned him on? Maybe it was because even the fourteen-year olds he had fucked back in prep school still wore black satin and lace - lingerie they had stolen from their mother's wardrobe. Lex doubted he had ever even touched a pair of pink cotton panties before.

Hudson whimpered as his tongue slipped into her ear and the innocent sound broke Lex from his thoughts, leaving him torn between wanting to throw her to the floor and take her then and there, and reminding himself that he would never do such a thing to her. Not to his angel. No, he wouldn't let that happen. He would seriously hate himself in the morning if he gave into his baser desires and fucked Hudson the way his body was begging to. And there was only so much self-loathing he could handle in one week.

Knowing he needed to focus on something other than his own gratification, Lex removed his tongue from her ear and instead whispered into it, "Do you like that?"

"Mmmm." Hudson nudged her cheek against his. "Y-yes... Is... Is that something you like, too?"

Lex smiled at her question, remembering what it felt like to burn with curiosity about all sexual activity. "Why don't you find out?" He suggested.

Hudson pulled back to look at him, her expression mildly confused and Lex remained silent, returning her stare, waiting patiently for her to make her decision. Time seemed interminable before she finally leaned in to him, her nose nuzzling his ear momentarily before he felt the first swipe of her tongue. Sucking in a sharp breath at the contact, Lex closed his eyes and lost himself in the gentle, exploratory movement. Her tongue traced the shell of his ear lightly, before she finally drew the lobe in, suckling on it. Lex's fingers dug into her waist as she pulled her mouth away, her tongue suddenly pushing into his ear - wet, warm, soft. A moan escaped him before he could contain it. The tender eagerness of her ministrations was almost too much.

All too soon, it was over and Hudson was pulling back, looking at him, her expression clearly registering how pleased with herself she was. "You like that," she told him.

Smiling, Lex touched her lips, tracing his fingers over them, admiring how swollen and red they were from his kisses. Her hair was slightly mussed from his hands and god, she was sexy, face flushed, eyes slightly glazed with desire. He could stare at her forever like this.

"You're so beautiful," he whispered, cupping her face as it colored with his compliment. Smiling, Lex leaned in and brushed his lips over hers once, twice. Unable to hold back, he deepened the kiss, pleased to sense her growing confidence as she returned it, her tongue moving in perfect concert with his.

Lex told himself that clothes would definitely remain between them, and that a few little caresses would be harmless enough. But his hands began to wander before he realized what he was doing. It was impossible not to want to touch her, to explore the parts of her that had always been forbidden. His palms skimmed over the front of her blouse, pausing to cup her breasts, teasing the nipples through the fabric. She moaned into his mouth, and the sound went straight to his cock, and in moments his fingers were working at the tiny pearl buttons, eager to touch her skin, to extract that sound from her again. Hudson shifted slightly in his lap, as if giving him easier access to her clothing, and he thought it was some kind of miracle that he didn't just rip the shirt off of her and to hell with dealing with the buttons that were refusing to cooperate.

It seemed like forever before the fabric finally parted and his fingers moved over her soft skin, delving into the valley between her breasts. More buttons, and he finally touched her belly, grinning against her mouth as her stomach flexed and jumped beneath the contact. He continued to move his fingers over her skin until he felt she was accustomed to it before they drifted back upwards, gliding over her bra. Cotton. Lex fought back the laughter that threatened. Was it pink, too? He was dying to know.

Moving his mouth away from hers, he traced a line along her jaw with his tongue, straight to her ear, where he whispered, "I'm going to remove your blouse now. You can tell me to stop at any time, do you understand?"

Hudson nodded, her fingers curling around his upper arms. At first, her grip was a little painful and Lex couldn't help but wonder what they were feeding her on that farm. Then he remembered this was the same girl who had pulled him from a river and performed many other amazing feats he tried very hard not to question (and didn't always succeed). He kissed her ear as his hands moved over her shoulders, and he waited, until her fingers relaxed against him, began stroking instead of gripping, and he slowly pushed the shirt over her arms. Tugging her hands away from him, he slipped the sleeves over her wrists and gently laid it aside before turning back to her.

She wouldn't meet his gaze. Lex allowed her a moment's shyness while his eyes followed his fingers across her skin. The bra she wore wasn't pink - it was lavender. That was even better. Lavender, soft cotton, with nipples pert beneath the fabric. He drew his middle finger along the edge of one cup, glancing up to watch her face as he explored. She finally raised her gaze to his, eyes uncertain. Lex smiled before giving her a gentle kiss.

"Do you want me to stop?" He asked, searching her eyes.

"N-no." Hudson shook her head, dark hair falling over one breast.

Lex couldn't have that. He pushed the strands back over her shoulder, pausing to play with the lavender strap for a moment. "You're very, very beautiful," he assured her, kissing her shoulder as he slowly, carefully drew the strap downward over her arm. "Do you know that?"

Her head shook again. Lex smiled. Good. He wanted to be the one to tell her, the one to open her eyes and help her to understand the kind of power she held. She didn't know it yet, but one day, when she was older, she could set the entire world on its ear. And Lex wanted to be there to see it.

He continued to kiss her shoulder, lips moving over the hollow of her throat as his hand drifted over the now-exposed breast. She gasped as his fingers touched the nipple, and he paused, suckling against her neck, fingertips slowly beginning to ghost over the nipple once more until he felt her move into the touch, her breath quickening. Certain that she was comfortable and ready for more, Lex kissed his way down over the swell of her breast, pausing for a moment to just breathe against her, drawing in the fruity smell that lingered on her skin, before his mouth closed over the sensitive peak.

"Oh... "

Would every sexual encounter be so amusing? Lex wondered with her very strange and positively adorable reaction. His tongue teased her at first, flicking back and forth over the raised skin, before he began to suckle, eyes drifting closed in simple pleasure as her hands cupped the back of his head. One arm encircled her waist, holding her close, drawing her even closer, while the hand of the other slipped past the fabric of her bra to caress the heretofore neglected breast.

Hudson squirmed and pressed against his mouth. As much as Lex enjoyed knowing that she wanted this, the squirming was about to kill him. The ache was becoming almost too much to ignore and having her constantly rubbing against him, her heat seeping through... Well, he was never going to make it at this rate. And he couldn't remember the last time he had actually lost so much control as to actually come in his pants. Something had to be done. Pulling his mouth away, he kissed her breast gently then kissed her mouth as he grabbed the straps of her bra and replaced them back over her shoulders.

"Lex?"

He flashed her a reassuring smile. "Come on. Let's go somewhere a little more comfortable - with a little less chance of my staff walking in."

Hudson's eyes widened at his comment and she scrambled off his lap for her shirt as Lex carefully stood. He untucked his own shirt from his slacks as her back was turned, feeling it was unnecessary to walk around the house flashing his hard on for all the world to see. When Hudson turned back to him, she was clutching her blouse over her chest, eyes wide, lips ruby red, an erect nipple peering out above the arm that was attempting to cover the rest of her.

Lex took a deep breath, mentally began calculating the profits from the past quarter at the Plant as he reached out to take her hand and pull her closer. Touching her chin, he asked her, "Are you afraid?"

"Huh? No." Her eyes widened, if that was possible. "No, I'm not."

"Good. You have no reason to be." He kissed the tip of her nose. "Not much is going to happen tonight, I want you to understand that now. I just want you to get used to me touching you. You're in control here, all right? If you want to just stay down here, have another float and talk some more, that's okay, too."

She shook her head. Quite emphatically, actually. "I want to go upstairs... with you."

"Okay." He kissed her again before moving past her, holding her hand securely in his, and heading down the hall toward the stairs that led to the third floor.

As they entered his bedroom, he stepped away from her to turn the lamp beside his bed on low, before turning back to find her hugging the blouse a little more tightly to her chest, barely stepping past the threshold. Knowing he had to let her make this decision on her own, Lex sat down on the edge of the bed and watched her, before pointing to the door.

"Are you going to come in? You can close the door behind you."

Hudson glanced at the door beside her, shifting from one foot to the other before she finally reached out for the knob and quietly closed it. "Do you want me to lock it?"

Lex was not going to laugh. "I don't think we need to worry about angry parents storming in, angel."

"Oh. Yeah."

Lex covered his mouth to hide the smile as she turned back to him. He swallowed back his mirth, lowering his hand when it was safe and held it out to her. "C'mere."

She took a few hesitant steps before it seemed that she regained her confidence and walked over to him, taking his hand, allowing him to pull her between his thighs. He pulled the blouse from her grasp, tossing it to the floor, arms going back around her waist to lean in and place a kiss between her breasts. He remained that way for the next few minutes, silent, nose slowly nuzzling her skin, lips occasionally kissing it. Lex thought he could stay like this forever, just holding her, smelling her, feeling her heart beating beneath her chest.

As time passed, he was able to cool his over-heated body. Using long-practiced discipline that he'd burned into himself from the moment he learned how easily women could use sex against him, Lex placed one last kiss beneath Hudson's collarbone before pulling back to look up at her.

"You okay?" He brushed a hair from her eyes, tucking it behind her ear.

She nodded but the slight furrow between her brows said otherwise.

"What's wrong? Talk to me." He settled his arms on her hips, leaning back a little to watch her.

"I... I feel silly. I mean, like stupid for being so... so... "

"Inexperienced?" Lex supplied.

"Yes."

Lex gave her a smile. "It's expected, Hudson," he told her quietly. "And I wouldn't want it any other way." Using his index finger, he drew a line between her breasts, moving under her bra, following the curve of the soft swells. "I don't like the idea of some other man... boy... whatever, touching you like this." He curled his fingers, brushing the back of his knuckles over the fabric that covered a nipple, listening to the hitch in her breath at the brief contact. "I want to be the one to touch you. The one to show you everything."

"I don't want anyone else to touch me."

He looked up to find Hudson's lips parted in the barest hint of a smile. Who was seducing whom here? He narrowed his gaze while his fingers hooked over the straps of her bra, lowering them slowly past her shoulders. "Good," he told her as he leaned in to breathe against an exposed breast. "See that they don't."

This time, he didn't hold back. Suckling one breast, fondling the other, switching between the two until the girl in his arms couldn't seem to hold herself up anymore, whimpers and cries issuing from her throat as she clawed at his shoulders for purchase. God, she was so responsive, uninhibited once the barriers were broken down. What would she be like with more experience? Lex was tempted to give her free rein over his body, just to see how curious she would be, how giving. But he knew it wasn't time for that yet. This night was about her, about building her confidence, teaching her not to fear him, learning what she liked. There would be time enough for his own pleasure.

Scooting back on the bed, Lex pulled her with him, moving over the comforter until they were both lying on their sides, facing one another. He kissed her shoulder and her neck, hands moving over her back, her belly, her supple breasts. Hudson writhed beneath his touch, hips instinctively moving toward him, leg reaching to curl around his own and Lex pushed it away, rolled her on to her back, knowing it was safer that way. She whimpered in denial but didn't fight him and once he moved down her body, his teeth grazing over the skin of her stomach, her displeasure seemed to immediately dissipate.

One hand moved across her hip, down her thigh, over her bent knee and he touched her ankle, wrapping his fingers around it possessively for a moment before slowly easing his hand upwards. Long, muscular calf - god, he could only imagine how it would feel to have those long legs wrapped around him - impossibly perfect thigh, warm beneath his touch, the skin growing warmer still as he continued upwards. Her inner thighs were softer than he imagined and the heat... god. He thrust his tongue into her belly button as his fingers brushed against the fabric of her panties. Cotton. And damp. Lex groaned inwardly, not noticing that Hudson had stiffened beneath him until he went to touch her again.

Kissing the soft skin beneath his mouth, Lex withdrew his hand to her knee, rubbing it soothingly as he lifted his head to look at her. Sure enough, her mouth was drawn in a tight line, eyes hooded. Kissing her stomach once more, he moved back up beside her, hand placed between her ribcage, slowly caressing the skin.

"What is it, angel?" He asked. "What's wrong?"

"N-nothing."

His eyes narrowed a bit at her lie but he figured she was simply shy and a little frightened and embarrassed to admit it. "Talk to me." He leaned over to kiss the corner of her mouth, tongue moving against her lower lip. "You need to talk to me, Hudson. I need to know what you're thinking."

Hudson's eyes darted over to his and Lex realized it appeared as if she had just been caught with her hands in the proverbial cookie jar. He leaned up on his elbow, wondering if this was more than just innocent fear of the unknown.

"You're hiding something, I can see it." He pulled his hand away and, seeing the flicker of distress in her gaze, knew that he was doing the right thing. "If you're not willing to talk, then perhaps you should leave." He began to sit up.

"No." A hand on his shoulder, gentle pressure that tugged him back beside her. "It's not... it's not bad, per se." Her hand fluttered in the air between them, as if trying to make up for the words she seemed reluctant to form. "I just... Oh god."

That wasn't a good response. Lex worked his jaw for a moment, watching her. "I'm waiting."

Sighing in defeat, Hudson glanced toward the end of the bed, worrying her lower lip. Silence stretched between them as her fingers played with the edge of the comforter, her face registering a distinct impression of frustration.

"I... " She began and just as suddenly stopped. Taking a deep breath, she tried again. "When you... when you were infected with the Nicodemus toxin, you came by the house. I was alone and you were... Well, you were more receptive to me than ever before and at first, I didn't know why. So I didn't fight it - I just let it happen... "

"Let what happen?" Lex asked quietly, mind already shutting down, refusing to second-guess what she was about to tell him. The anger was growing, deep beneath the surface, waiting to be released.

Her gaze flickered over his face as if she sensed the burning fuse. "You... we kissed and... stuff."

"Stuff?"

"You touched me... like tonight," she admitted softly, lowering her eyes to the mattress. "And your fingers... down... well, like just now only more and - "

"Fuck!"

"Lex -- !"

"God fucking dammit!"

Lex was off the bed in one fluid motion, tossing a nearby chair across the room, sweeping his arm over the top of his dresser, knocking bottles of cologne and two antique humidors to the floor with a loud crash. He paced at the end of the bed, hands moving over his scalp in overpowering frustration and anger.

He had touched her, used her like some common whore, and she hadn't even had the decency to tell him what he'd done! Try as he might, he couldn't remember a moment of that night beyond finding the dead flower on the side of the road and finally waking up in the hospital in Metropolis, his father gloating at his bedside. And now, months later, he finds out that quite a bit more happened - and Hudson had known all along and never told him! When would her lies ever end?

Lex rounded on her, unable to contain his irritation with her perfidy any longer. "Why didn't you tell me?! Another fucking lie, Hudson!" He accused angrily.

"Because I knew you would react like this," she countered, sweeping her arms wide at the destruction he already caused. "Because I knew you would blame yourself for something you had no control over, Lex. It happened. I let it happen. Do you understand? I wanted it to happen, Lex. And even if it wasn't you, specifically, I wouldn't change it." Her lower lip thrust outward in a pout. "After all, up until tonight, it's all you've given me."

Lex glowered at her before turning away, running a hand over his scalp in frustration. He couldn't decide what was worse - that he lost his control so completely, that he could have hurt her or that he couldn't remember getting to third base with Hudson Kent. Fuck.

"Lex, please." He stiffened as he felt her arms move around his waist from behind, her lips pressing against the back of his neck. "Don't do this. I'm sorry I didn't tell you. But I thought... it just didn't seem necessary."

Lex didn't want to give in. Had someone told him he could feel this kind of anger towards her earlier that day, he would have laughed. It was more than just the lie - it was the fact that he asked her if he'd done anything, that she waited to bring it up until something significant was happening between them, at a time when the information did little more than come between them, instead of bring them together. But her arms held him tightly, fingers moving over his stomach rhythmically, a kiss pressed through the fabric against his shoulder.

"I'm sorry. Please, Lex. Please forgive me. I didn't mean to upset you."

Dammit. Since when did he lose all sense of reason when it came to her?

Turning in her embrace, Lex continued to glare, even as he held her. "No more lies, Hudson. Got it? I can't take another goddamned lie. If you want this to work, if you want me to believe in it, then you have to give something in return. I need you to be honest with me."

She swallowed and dropped her gaze and Lex could see her mind working, see that there were a million `something's' hidden behind her eyes that she might never admit, no matter how many times she might say `Yes, Lex. I'm telling you the truth'.

When she brought her gaze back to his, she nodded. "Okay. I'm sorry. Please don't be angry?"

Just like that, his anger fled. He still couldn't believe he had forced himself on her, that he couldn't remember having done so, that she had kept it hidden for so long. But a small part of him understood why. He could forgive her; forgiveness for himself would take a while. His arms tightened around her as he nodded, leaning down to kiss her lips.

"If it helps," she commented as he pulled back. "I... ummmm ... kinda sorta liked it."

Lex smiled. "I should hope so. Out of my mind or not, I would hope that I'd have the presence of mind to do it right."

Hudson's cheeks colored as she smiled and laughed a little before burying her face against his shirt. They stood that way for a few minutes, Lex's anger cooling, his hands moving over her back, flicking against the band of her bra.

"Lex?"

"Hmmm?"

"I... ummm... I really wouldn't mind if you did it again?"

What the hell had he done to deserve her? Pulling back to look down at her flushed face, Lex smirked and shook his head. "Well then, I must have done it right." He kissed her forehead. "I think you've had enough for the night."

"But - "

"No buts." Stepping away, he took her hand and led her back over to the bed, maneuvering her until she sat down on the edge. "Lay back and get some rest. You've had a rough week. I'm going to clean up this mess and then I'll join you."

Hudson was clearly disappointed, and a little angry according to the frown she wore. Lex waited for her to fold her arms over her chest and stamp her foot petulantly. Fortunately, she apparently wasn't in the mood to argue and he held back the sigh of relief that threatened. The desire he'd felt earlier had dissipated with her news of his previous exploits with her body and right now, all he really wanted was a good stiff drink. He watched as she moved back on the bed and laid her head down against his pillows, tucking a hand beneath her cheek. She was staring at him, uncertainty evident in her expression -- all lavender bra and tight black skirt and dammit, he still didn't know what color panties she was wearing. Would she tell him if he asked? It would certainly provide for hours of masturbation material.

Pushing off from the bed, Lex returned to the dresser where he crouched down to begin cleaning up the items he had swept to the ground.

"Lex?"

"Yeah?" He glanced toward the bed, seeing little more than her toes peeking over the edge. He watched as they curled up and then flexed.

"Can we... I mean, someday... will you... "

He smiled. "Someday... very soon, angel."

"Oh."

Her toes curled again and Lex figured his answer was enough.


Hudson's first thought as she awoke was that she knew she wasn't in her own bed.

The second that it was a damn good thing she hadn't dreamed about flying.

Opening her eyes, she was pleased to discover that the room was still shrouded in darkness. That meant she hadn't slept too long and would have time to get home before her parents noticed she was gone. She knew they had likely gone to bed early, trusting her to be home by midnight, too exhausted from the events of the past week to stay up and wait for her. Maybe it was wrong to take advantage of the situation as it was, but Hudson couldn't find it in herself to be ashamed. Not when she was this happy.

Lex's arms were around her and she snuggled closer to his side, rubbing her cheek against the fabric of his purple silk shirt, barely remembering that she still wasn't wearing her own. His arms tightened their grip slightly, the fingers of one hand brushing against her arm. Craning her head back, Hudson met his eyes, open and wide and staring at her in the darkness. She offered a smile that was slowly returned, and then she reached up and touched his jaw, tracing her finger along the edge softly.

"How long have you been awake?" Her voice sounded loud to her in the stillness, like there should only be silence between them.

"Not long."

She could tell that he was lying but she didn't call him on it. "What time is it?"

"Just past three."

Her eyes widened at his reply. "I slept a long time."

"You were tired." He brushed his lips across her forehead.

"Is everything all right?" She asked, afraid to hear the answer.

She searched his face for a moment, wishing that he wasn't so difficult to read. Currently, she couldn't tell if he was happy or sad or angry... nothing. And it made her wonder if he was still dwelling on the night he'd been infected with the Nicodemus toxin. She shouldn't have told him, should have chalked her momentary reluctance of his intimate touch to simple fear of the unknown. Unfortunately, Hudson had grown so tired of lying to Lex, she found herself simply wanting to be truthful with him for once. He deserved that much from her. She just wished she could give him so much more.

"If you can't sleep... "

Smiling just a little, Lex moved his hand to her neck, caressing the skin lightly. "Everything's perfect, Angel. I've just been thinking."

Hudson frowned a little, her fingers moving to play with the top buttons of his shirt. "Thinking? I hate it when you do that. It's never good. You're exceptional at talking yourself out of things."

Lex chuckled and Hudson let out a small squeak as he suddenly rolled them over so that she was pinned beneath him, their legs entangled. He smiled down at her while his fingers brushed through the hair at her temples. "My father says I don't think enough. I'll be sure to tell him you disagree."

"Oh no! I don't think you should do that!" Hudson shook her head. "He wouldn't like it."

"What he wouldn't like is that I value your opinion a little more than I do his."

He grew silent, watching her, his eyes probing hers as his fingers continued to play with her hair. Hudson shifted a little beneath him, believing that there couldn't be a greater feeling on earth than having his body pressed against hers. Well, except maybe when his mouth was on her breast and his tongue in her ear and... Oh! There had to be so many other great feelings out there - and she wanted to experience them all. Right now!

"Hudson, do you want this?"

That seemed like an incredibly silly question. Especially considering the flow of her thoughts at the moment. Her brow furrowed. "You know I do."

"No, I want you to think about this." His mouth tightened briefly and his eyes moved to his fingers in her hair. "You're smart enough and old enough to understand that this entire situation is complicated. Your parents - shit, who knows what they'll do."

"We won't tell them."

Lex looked back at her and scowled. "Hudson, I am not sneaking behind your parents' backs - "

"We have to," she broke in, the very thought of telling her parents that she and Lex were together absolutely terrifying. If she knew her father - and she was fairly certain she knew her father well - there would be shotguns and lots of cussing involved. "I mean, just for now. Let me figure out how to tell them, okay? Mr. Fordman just died and there are the problems with the farm and... I just need to think of the right way to tell them about us. I promise, it won't be long. Just... just give me a few days, okay?"

Hudson could tell that Lex wasn't pleased with the idea but he nodded anyway, his fingers moving from her hair to her cheek.

"Perhaps it's a good idea to wait," he commented after a few moments. "It will give you time to decide if this is what you really want."

"Lex - "

"No. Listen to me." Lex sighed and moved to sit up, pulling her with him. He pulled her between his legs, so that she rested against his chest, her legs lying over one wool-clad thigh. Touching her chin, he brought her head around so that their eyes met once more. "I'm not certain what I can promise you, Hudson. Teenage girls tend to have a specific idea about what romance and dating is all about and... I'm just not the guy for that. I can't promise you roses and holding hands and romantic walks through the park. Hell, the longest time I have ever spent with one woman is Victoria and... " He broke off and shook his head, running a hand over his scalp. "We just didn't have that kind of relationship."

Hudson made a face. "It was all about the sex, huh?"

Lex turned to a look at her, his expression registering surprise at her words before he finally grinned and nodded. "Yeah. Sex and power. That's what most of them have been about, Hudson."

"Hmmm." Hudson laid her head against his shoulder, growing quiet while she considered his words. She wasn't certain what she should say to make him understand that she knew that this wasn't like Whitney and Lana or any of the other couples at school. It would be a mature relationship, and she would be expected to approach it in the same manner.

Leaning her head back a little to look up at him as he idly caressed her arm, she asked, "What do you want out of this? I think that's the most important question."

Lex watched her without replying, his fingers moving over the curve of her shoulder as he smiled slightly. "I want to get you home before your parents notice that you're still out." He kissed her forehead and pulled away, sliding to the edge of the bed to put his shoes on.

Hudson fought very hard not to punch the mattress beneath her. "You're so frustrating," she snapped, scooting across the bed to sit next to him. "Why do you do that?"

"Hudson, there are going to be a lot of things you aren't going to like about me," Lex replied smoothly as he stood and looked down at her. "I'm surprised you haven't figured that out by now. The question is, do you have the stamina to stay for the long haul? Most don't." He shrugged. "I've grown accustomed to it."

Dropping to her hands and knees to search for her shoes under the bed, Hudson replied, "I think your talent for pushing people away is more highly developed than you realize." After failing in her search, she sat back up and frowned, casting a quick glare around the room, momentarily using her x-ray vision to discover they were no where nearby.

"My therapists have said the same thing," Lex remarked, leaning back against the dresser, legs crossed at the ankles, watching her with an amused expression. "What makes you so different, then?"

She glanced over her shoulder to look at him. "I'm just the opposite. I cleave tightly to everyone I meet and never want to let them go."

"So opposites attract?"

"Something like that."

"Hudson?"

"Yeah?"

"You left your shoes and stockings downstairs."

Her face flamed. "Oh. Yeah. That's right."

She snatched her blouse up from the nightstand and slipped it on, focusing her attention completely on fastening the buttons and trying very hard to ignore the man standing across from her. How she succeeded in continually making a fool out of herself in front of Lex, she had no idea. Hopefully it was a stage she would grow out of eventually.

Smiling, Lex pushed off from the dresser and held out his hand to help her to her feet. "Come on. Let's get you home."

Hudson started out the bedroom door with him, when she realized it was kind of rude to make him leave his house so late at night. "Oh. You don't need to drive me, Lex. I can just... " She was about to say `run' when she realized that wouldn't sound right. Especially in heels. "Walk."

Frowning, Lex steered her down the hall with a gentle push to her back. "Walk? Hudson, it's three o'clock in the morning. Small town or not, I'm not about to let a sixteen-year old girl wander dark, country roads by herself. I may be heartless, but I'm not heartless and stupid."

Seeing that she had no other choice in the matter, Hudson remained silent as they made their way down the stairs to the second floor study where she found her shoes and stockings tucked under the chair she'd been leaning against. As she slipped them on, Lex brought her coat to her and helped her into it, lifting her hair out of the way as she shifted it around her shoulders. She sucked in a sharp breath as he leaned down and kissed the edge of her neck where it swept into her shoulder, nipping at the skin lightly. It tickled and sent a tiny shiver down her back. Biting her lip, she turned her head to look at him as he smiled.

"Lex... "

"Come on." He took her hand before she could continue and led her toward the garage.

The drive back to the farm was silent. Hudson sat chewing on a thumbnail while Lex raced down the dark roads, barely putting in the brake around each corner. She hated that he drove so recklessly. Once she had asked him to drive more carefully but he hadn't really taken her words to heart. It worried her because she couldn't always be there. What if he lost control of the car at some point?

Lex parked the Porsche at the end of the driveway, apparently not wanting to wake up her parents, for which she was grateful. The farmhouse was dark, with only the porch light illuminating the front yard. Hudson sighed softly as she stared at her home before looking over to find Lex watching her.

"What?" She shifted a little nervously, wondering if she suddenly had a big zit on the tip of her nose or something.

"Nothing." Lex smiled a little then leaned across the interior to kiss the corner of her mouth. "Thanks for coming back with me tonight. Your presence was... appreciated."

Hudson touched his cheek. "You're welcome. Are you... will you be okay?"

"I always am." He gazed at her intently for a moment. "We need to talk about... everything. I'll be by in the early afternoon."

"Okay - no. Wait!" Hudson sighed, making a face. "I won't be here. Chloe and I are catching the train to Metropolis for the journalism conference." At his frown, she told him, "You got me the tickets, remember? Anyway, I won't be home until Sunday night."

Lex nodded. "I'll be by then."

Rolling her eyes, Hudson opened the door, commenting, "I can only imagine how much you'll talk yourself out of everything in that amount of time."

Lex reached up and tugged on her hair, pulling her back against him. "You're such a brat." He kissed the tip of her nose. "Sleep well, Angel."

"You too." She kissed him back quickly and then slid out of the car, closing the door behind her.

Waving to him through the window, Hudson started her way up the drive toward the house, glancing over her shoulder to see that the car hadn't moved. She smiled as she realized that Lex was waiting to make certain she made it into the house all right. It was sweet - and something a boyfriend would do.

Boyfriend? She'd made out with Lex in his study that night! He'd seen her in her bra and everything!

Hudson tried not to squeal and dance around the driveway in pure happiness, but a grin still stuck to her face all of the way in to the house.


"Arf! Grrrrrr.... Arf! Arf!"

"Awww... shut up, AJ!" Hudson grumbled before rolling over in her bed to shove her head under the pillow.

"Arf! Arf! Arf!... Grrrrrrrrr... "

There was a tug on her sheets and the sound of a tear, followed by a few loud thumps. Rolling her eyes, Hudson lifted her head up and glanced across her room to see AJ sprawled on his back, a surprised expression on his furry face as he stared at the torn sheet that had allowed him to unceremoniously tumble across the floor. Once he glowered long enough, he flipped back over onto his chubby paws and attacked the shredded sheet once more.

"Mom is going to kill you," Hudson told him, reaching down to scoop him up with her arm and set him in her lap as she sat up. "Don't you want to live to see your six month birthday?"

The puppy wagged his tail in reply and licked her chin. He was already twice the size he had been when Lex gave him to her on her sixteenth birthday.

"You're a monster, you know that, don't you?" She asked as she craned her head back, trying to avoid direct tongue licks to her mouth. His breath was atrocious. Her mom tried to get her to brush his teeth but there was just something weird about brushing a dog's mouth. Hudson wondered what Lex would do if she used his toothbrush.

Lex...

A smile crossed Hudson's face at the thought of him and the previous night, and she turned to look at AJ who suddenly acquired interest in gnawing on her fingers.

"Can you keep a secret, pup?" Frowning, she pulled her hand out of his mouth and tapped him on the nose gently. "Bad puppy. Don't chew on people. It doesn't hurt me - but it might hurt someone else. Now, listen to me. I have something to tell you."

AJ sat back on the bed, tail wagging expectantly.

"Good boy." Grinning happily, Hudson leaned forward and whispered, " I was over at Lex's last night - you know, moody guy in the expensive clothes. The one whose car you peed in? Anyway, I was at his house and we kissed! Well, we did more than kiss. He - oh, you don't need to know the details. You're too young anyway."

Climbing out of bed, she turned back and lifted AJ into her hands, holding him high above her head as she twirled around.

"He kissed me, AJ! And he called me beautiful!" She laughed, then quickly remembered that she wasn't home alone and glanced toward the door.

Looking back at AJ, whose tail was slapping against her wrists in apparent shared happiness, she laughed again, softer this time. "AJ," she whispered. "I think I'm in love!"

"Arf!"

"H.C., do you plan on sleeping all day?" Her father called out from the hallway. "There are chores to be done."

Damn. "Ummm, I'm up. I'll be right down, Dad."

And here she had been planning to get up early and do the chores ahead of him. Well, maybe she could race her way through them.

Setting AJ back on his feet, she walked over to the door and opened it, letting him out into the hallway. "Go down and tell mom to let you out." She put a finger to her lips. "And shhhh. Don't tell her our secret! Or you'll be Kibbles n' Bits - I promise!"

Watching as the fat puppy toddled his way down the hall, Hudson closed the door and hurriedly dressed.

She did her best to get to all of her father's chores before he could, as well as her own. Three times she sped past him, and he called out to her, asking what the hurry was. Finally, ten minutes later, Hudson came to a halt beside the fence where Jonathan was leaning over the rail, staring out into the empty pasture. She'd finished two hours worth of chores for two people, and she didn't even lose a speck of grain or drop of water from any of the buckets she had carried. Her father glanced over at her as she leaned back against it beside him, a cheeky grin on her face.

"And what, may I ask, was that all about?" His tone indicated he wasn't too pleased with her performance but he was smiling at her all the same.

"I just thought you deserved a break. Can't a daughter with super abilities use them occasionally to do good things for her parents?"

"No," Jonathan replied resolutely. "Not when you could have easily been seen by the paperboy or any one of our neighbors. Besides, there's nothing wrong with a little hard work. We all need to pull our weight around here. And I would prefer you not resort to using your abilities to take care of your problems. The biggest mistake you could make is coming to rely on them, H.C."

Hudson had heard this speech so many times, she sometimes recited it in her sleep. Sighing in frustration, she threw her hands up in the air and pushed off from the fence. "No one said I was relying on them, Dad. I was just trying to do something nice for you. I would have taken hours to do them all the right way, but Chloe and Mr. Sullivan will be by soon so we can leave for the Journalism Conference."

"That's taking the easy way out, H.C.," her father reiterated. "And I don't like it." He paused, frowning a little as he looked at her. "When did you get home from Lex's last night?"

Oh. So that was what this was about. "Five after twelve," she lied.

"What did you do over there?"

I let him stick his tongue down my throat. "He introduced me to the cult he's started. We even sacrificed a live chicken. Next week, we're moving on to babies."

"I don't appreciate your tone with me this morning, Hudson Kent," her father snapped, his annoyance with her more than apparent. "Do you want to be grounded and not get to go to Metropolis?"

She glared at him. "No."

"Then I suggest you wipe that look off your face."

Swallowing once, Hudson did as her father `suggested' and fought against the gnawing rebellion that was rising inside of her.

Jonathan watched her for a moment before continuing, "Now, I want to know what you and Lex did. I'm sorry if you think I'm being intrusive, H.C., but when a man's sixteen-year old daughter goes over to the house of a twenty-two-year old male - never mind who he happens to be - a father gets nervous." He seemed to soften a little bit and reached out to grasp her shoulder gently. "I don't want to see my little girl get hurt."

Hudson sighed and rolled her eyes in mild amusement. "I don't think that's going to happen, Dad. You seem to forget that your sixteen-year old `little' girl' is an alien from another planet who can bench press a tractor."

"There are other ways to get hurt than just physically, H.C.," he reminded her gently.

Okay. So her dad had a point. It didn't happen often.

"We just... talked," she told him, only feeling a little guilty. "He's had a rough few weeks and he needed someone to talk to and I listened. Oh! And Dodd made me a big ol' bacon cheeseburger and a root beer float. He's finally learning to cook!"

Jonathan smiled at his daughter's comment. "I doubt Lex Luthor would have a cook who didn't know how to do his job, H.C."

"Well, he doesn't seem to know how to cook normal food."

Chuckling, he slipped his arm around his daughter's waist and started toward the house. "Since you're so speedy this morning, why don't you get inside and help your mom with breakfast? I'm going to run over to Bill O'Reilly's real quick and drop off the feed he ordered."

Hudson nodded, throwing a wave to her father as he moved away from her and headed towards the pickup. Jogging up the steps of the back porch, she pulled open the screen door and stepped in to find her mother, already showered, coffee brewing in the pot, squeezing fresh oranges for juice.

"Morning!"

"Morning, honey." Martha glanced over her shoulder to flash a smile. "Did you sleep well?"

"Ummhmm." Hudson opened the refrigerator door and peered inside, finding nothing that seemed appetizing enough to snack on before breakfast. She swiped her finger through the chocolate cake in front of her, gathering a glop of icing, which she shoved into her mouth. "AJ tore my bed sheet. Where is he anyway?"

"Last I saw he was finishing up his destruction of one of your father's new slippers on the front porch." Martha frowned as she watched her daughter. "H.C., it's too early for cake."

She closed the door and smirked as she licked the rest of the confection from her fingertip. "It's just icing. And that's got dairy in it, right?"

"You're like a walking trash compactor," her mother remarked, turning back to the cut oranges in front of her.

"Dodd said that exact same thing last night. Except, he didn't use quite as flattering terms."

Martha laughed, tossing the orange rinds into the garbage then pouring a small glass for Hudson before carrying it over to her. She kissed her daughter's forehead. "Did you have a good time at Lex's?"

Oh, that would be a definite... "I guess." Hudson shrugged nonchalantly as she sipped at her juice. "His nanny recently died. Cancer. And he needed someone to talk to."

"The poor boy." Martha shook her head as she gathered breakfast items from the refrigerator. "He's lucky to have you for a friend."

Friend. Hudson smiled as she stared at the fruit bowl in front of her. Friend. She stifled a giggle. None of her friends had ever done those things to her before.

"Looking forward to your trip to Metropolis?"

"Yeah," she replied absently, a furrow forming across her brow as she began to remember a very strange dream she'd had before AJ woke her.

She'd been with Lex, in his bed, making out like last night, only this time there were no clothes between them at all. The details were a little fuzzy but she remembered that they discovered she wasn't built like human females - in fact, she had looked just like a Barbie! Hudson's eyes widened as she shifted on the stool she was sitting on. What a disturbing dream, and how much would it suck to find out that she actually couldn't have sex??

Hudson spun around in her seat to face her mother. "Mom?"

"Hmmmm?" Martha was cracking eggs over the edge of the skillet, making each one perfectly sunny-side up before depositing the shells into the sink.

"What if I can't have sex?"

The egg hit the skillet a little too hard that time, and shell and innards went all over the stove as Martha turned to stare at her daughter, open mouthed. "Wh-what?"

"You made a mess," Hudson pointed out, waving toward the stovetop where the egg was now cooking.

"It - I - " Martha broke off, spinning back around to grab the dishtowel and began cleaning the egg and shells away. "Hudson, where did this come from?"

Watching as her mother diligently cleaned off the stove, Hudson's mind wandered as she wondered what Lex was having for breakfast that morning. She hoped it was healthy and wondered if Dodd burned toast. After all, he had all kinds of other weird recipe ideas. Maybe they burnt toast regularly where he came from.

She blinked at her mother's question, not understanding. "Huh? Eggs? From chickens, Mom."

Martha sighed in exasperation and set the towel down on the counter. Removing the skillet from the burner, she turned off the stove and moved over to the island counter to sit down beside her daughter. "I meant, where did your question come from? Why are you asking such a thing?"

Hudson fidgeted for a moment under her mother's intent stare. Chewing on her lower lip, she replied, "I've just been... thinking. I mean, I'm sixteen now and - "

"Turning sixteen doesn't give you a license to have sex, H.C.," Martha pointed out.

Grinning, Hudson shrugged. "Yeah, well... it's bound to happen sooner, rather than later, right?"

Martha ran a hand over her eyes. "I don't know if I'm ready for this conversation, honey."

"Mom, I'm serious," Hudson pleaded.

"Very well." She reached over to the counter to grab her cup of coffee, then turned back to her daughter, appearing to settle herself in for the upcoming conversation. "Why do you think you wouldn't be able to have sex?"

"Well, look at the rest of me." Hudson held her arms wide. "Bullets can't hurt me. Only the sharpest scissors work on the ends of my hair and we still go through a dozen pair in one cutting. What if my... " She broke off and reddened, realizing she had never really had this intimate a talk with her mother. "What if my... you know... is as impenetrable as the rest of me??"

"Your hymen?"

Hudson nodded, face flaming.

"Ah. I see." Martha nodded, pondering for a moment. "Well, I suppose the man you sleep with could always have a penis made of meteor rock... "

"Mom!!" Hudson's mouth fell open in disbelief.

Her mother laughed. "Oh, honey. I'm kidding. Calm down."

"Do you know how distressing it is to hear your mother talk about... about... not to mention green ones!" Hudson shook her head, trying to rid herself of the entire memory of this conversation. Therapy. There was just no way out of it. She was going to need serious therapy as an adult.

"H.C., have you ever even said the word `penis'?" Martha asked, trying unsuccessfully to hide a smile.

Oh great. Now her mother was making fun of her. "Not in front of you, I haven't. And I don't plan to."

Sighing, her mother replied, "Apparently Chloe is right. We have sheltered you too much."

"Okay. Fine. Tonight at dinner, right in front of dad, I will just yell out the word pe- " Hudson cut herself off. She just couldn't do it. She finished lamely, "And then you'll be sorry for bringing it up!"

Her mother was laughing again.

"Geez, and here I thought mothers were supposed to be supportive and loving of their children," Hudson whined, finishing her orange juice in annoyance.

Laughter fading, Martha reached out to pat her daughter's hand. "You know I love you. It's just, sometimes, I think you've spent too much time with your father and not enough with me."

Still chuckling, she took a sip of her coffee, placing it before her and leaning on her arms to regard Hudson soberly. "Honey, there are a lot of things we don't understand about your body and some of them... we're just going to have to wait until the time comes."

"Don't you think that will be kind of painful? For the guy, I mean."

Martha raised an eyebrow. "I would hope he would understand and that you would face the unknown together. Whoever you fall in love with, when you go to take that step, hopefully you will trust him enough by then to have shared your secret with him."

Hudson shifted in her seat, knowing that no matter how much she professed to love and trust Lex, her parents would never agree to her disclosing any information about what she was. Her mother might but her father would resolutely put his foot down. And how could she argue? They were the ones who raised her, they were the ones who took the chance to take in a child from another world, to accept the responsibility of protecting her and the family they had created. How could she then just defy them and behave as if her secret was simply hers alone to share?

Apparently noting her silence, Martha frowned. "H.C., is there a specific reason you're bringing this up now?"

"Er... no. Why?" Hudson glanced at her empty juice glass quickly.

Silence. She glanced up to find her mother still frowning, eyes narrowing just a little, then suddenly they flew open wide and her color paled just a bit. Hudson bit her lip.

"H.C.... has Lex... ?"

"No, Mom." Hudson sighed and shook her head. "He's never... well, if he wanted to, I would."

"H.C." Martha pinched the bridge of her nose, looking away from her daughter towards the window above the sink. "I don't like this. I don't like it at all. I don't like hearing about it. You're far too young. He's far much more mature than you." She looked back at Hudson. "Honey, don't you see how badly you could get hurt?"

Why did everyone immediately assume that she was the one who would be hurt? "Mom, what about Lex? I'm the one doing the lying here. Not him. I'm the one he trusts, the one he believes to be his friend. And yet every single day, without even opening my mouth, I'm telling him a lie." She kicked at the leg of the table gently. "Yes, I could get hurt. I've seen him with these women he's dated and I know all about his reputation in Metropolis. But I feel like... I'm not afraid to take the chance. He means so much to me, Mom. And he's so good to me. You know that."

"I know." Her mother nodded. "I know he cares about you, H.C. I've seen that much. But that doesn't change the world that he comes from. It doesn't change the exposure you could potentially have to others who might want to cause you harm. I just... please be careful? Take this slowly. Okay?"

"Okay." Hudson smiled a little. "You aren't... you aren't going to tell Dad, are you?"

Martha shook her head. "No. You are." She slid off of the stool and walked over to the stove to continue with breakfast. "And sooner, rather than later."

Hell.

Getting to her feet, Hudson left the kitchen to take her shower and pack for the night's stay in Metropolis, grumbling as she headed up the her room. She seriously doubted that the conversation with her father would include a discussion of green penises.


Hudson shifted from one foot to the other, gaze drifting down both directions of the crowded hall, as she searched for Chloe. The acoustics were overly loud in the Metropolis Convention Center and her ears were ringing. The sound system at the last panel she'd attended had been on the fritz and continually sent loud screeches through the tiny room. She silently thanked being what she was for the simple blessing of not acquiring headaches.

Chloe and her dad had arrived to pick Hudson up shortly after breakfast. After hugging her parents goodbye and receiving a small advance on her allowance for spending money, she'd piled her bags into the car and they headed to the train station. Gabe reiterated that Chloe's cousin, Louis Lane, would be meeting them at the conference after the last session that afternoon at five o'clock to take them back to his apartment. They would attend the conference with him the next day, and then he would drive them to the train station where Hudson's parents would pick them up in Smallville that night.

The train ride took forever. Everything seemed to still be a little strained between her and Chloe, and though they talked, it wasn't their usual endless chatter of the past. Eventually, Chloe turned to some notes she'd been making regarding a story for the Torch and Hudson dug out the latest book Lex suggested she read, East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Silence fell between them until the train arrived in Metropolis and they took a cab to the convention center.

They'd missed the opening speech and the first two panels but Chloe already had a full schedule outlined for each of them before they split up. There were so many panels she wanted to attend, but they were all going at the same time, so she asked Hudson to attend the others and take notes for her. Having no particular preference as to where she went, Hudson had shrugged and took the notepad Chloe handed her, moving off to lose herself in the throng of aspiring and professional journalists.

She was already bored out of her ever-loving mind.

Having watched Lex with some of his business associates when she'd visited him at the Plant, and seen Lionel Luthor in press conferences on the news, Hudson thought there was no way any profession could be stuffier and more arrogant than businessmen. Wow, had she been wrong! The most amusing part of all of it was how they tried to outdo one another while talking in panels with ten cent words. Pompous, is how her father would have referred to them. And, apparently, every journalist out there suffered more to get the best story for their readers than any of the others. They'd also all been in life-threatening situations and no one outside the profession seemed to understand how truly hard and unappreciated journalist endeavors were. They should try branding a steer once.

"H.C.!"

Turning at Chloe's call, Hudson tried not to show too much relief at seeing her friend pushing her way through the crowd toward her. "Please tell me it's time to get out of here and get something to eat?" Hudson pleaded.

"I just got out of the most amazing discussion!" Chloe enthused as she rushed up beside her, completely ignoring the question. She dug through the enormous bag slung over her shoulder and pulled out her notes. "It was given by... ummm, oh! Here's his name. Perry White. Anyway, it was all about breaking into the business with that first great article - you know, the one that gets you noticed?" She was practically dancing where she stood. "I have so many ideas, H.C.! Wouldn't it be fantabulous if I had a byline in the Planet even before I interned there??"

Hudson scratched her forehead as she plunged back into the crowd, Chloe quickly following along with her, heading towards the exit where they were supposed to meet Louis. "I don't know, Chloe. I mean, don't you think you'd be kind of shunned when you got there by the staff? Some of these people," she waved her hand to encompass the hall, "Aren't exactly poster children for the Mr. Rogers Show."

"It's a dog-eat-dog business, true," her friend nodded with a shrug. "But I'm getting a head start. By the time I graduate high school, the best news organizations in this country will be knocking down my door to get me. You'll see."

She couldn't help but admire her friend's ambition and drive. Hudson wished she had some. Truthfully, she had no idea what she wanted to do or be when she grew up. She enjoyed helping people, and loved animals, but she couldn't really picture herself as a doctor or veterinarian. Mostly because she became squeamish at the sight of blood. Astronomy was fun but it just seemed a little strange of an occupation to go into - searching to find the answer as to whether there was life on other worlds. Chloe said she had a knack for writing but the problem was, it just didn't interest Hudson that much. At least, it didn't consume her the way it did her friend. Oh well. If all else failed, she could likely find a promising career in the WWE.

"Oh! There's Louis," Chloe exclaimed beside her as she grabbed Hudson's hand and hurried her along through the crowd.

Hudson held back the sigh she longed to utter as they approached Chloe's cousin, Louis Lane. They'd met a few times before, also during weekend trips to Metropolis and once when he had come to visit Gabe and his daughter in Smallville. It wasn't very charitable of her, but Hudson didn't like Louis very much. The first time they'd met, she'd been wearing pigtails and he yanked on one of them and asked if she was `off to see the Wizard'. Of course, it hadn't hurt but she longed to kick him in return all the same. He seemed fascinated by the fact that she lived on a farm, if only to use that information as fodder to tease her with. The name of the town she had been raised in was enough to provide him with hours of entertainment at her expense.

Chloe, on the other hand, adored her older cousin. She modeled herself after him, aspiring to follow in his footsteps. Whenever they got together, they talked of nothing but journalism for hours. And hours. Hudson knew it was what she had to look forward to for the evening - nothing but reporting and writing and who was going to be the first among them to win a Pulitzer.

"Louis!" Chloe shouted above the din, waving at him. "Hi!"

Louis glanced up from the wall he was leaning against, lighting a cigarette right beneath the `No Smoking' sign. Dressed in charcoal slacks and white shirt with a dark grey tie, he was obviously at the conference for one reason - making an impression. This June he would be graduating from Metropolis University with top honors in his class. Chloe said she believed the Daily Planet was already saving position on their staff for him but whenever she asked, he never gave her a straight answer.

"Hey, Chloe." He glanced at Hudson and nodded briefly before shaking out the match and tossing it into the garbage can beside him. "Smallville, how's it going? Still tipping cows for fun?"

She made a face at him in return and Louis chuckled.

"You know I'm just kidding, Smallville. Geez, Chloe, tell your friend to lighten up." He reached out with one arm and wrapped it around his cousin's shoulders, giving her a quick hug.

"Ixnay on the owscay," Chloe muttered, making a slashing sign across her throat in a not-so-subtle manner.

Louis stared at her for a moment before his eyes flashed in recognition and he turned his gaze back to Hudson who was now frowning at both of them. "Oh, yeah. That LuthorCorp mess. Did you ever get that taken care of? I was dying to come out there and do a big expos on the whole thing but I had exams that week."

Hudson shrugged. "Lex is taking care of everything."

"Lex, eh?" Louis raised an eyebrow at her in curiosity.

"She and Lex Luthor are like this." Chloe crossed her fingers and held them up to show her cousin. "It's the talk of the whole town."

"I think you're exaggerating, Chloe," Hudson commented quickly, her face warming under Louis' more intent gaze. She waved her hand behind them, suggesting, "Shouldn't we go get our luggage from the lockers and head out of here?"

Louis sighed, as if he believed they should have made this trek without him, but he headed down the hall, turning to Chloe to ask how Gabe was doing. Hudson followed behind the cousins, pleased for the temporary respite from Louis' probing questions regarding her relationship with Lex. The last thing she needed was for Louis Lane to make his big byline in the Planet by exposing the story of Lex Luthor dating a sixteen-year old girl from Smallville. Not to mention the very unpleasant chat that would lead to with her parents.

There had been a short space of time where Hudson had a crush on Chloe's cousin. Even with all his teasing, she'd found him undeniably cute. Built more like a football player than any journalist she'd ever seen, Louis also had a baby face, with big blue eyes that Gabe said he used to talk his parents into anything. Tales of Louis' exploits ran rampant through the family, his `puppy eyes' expression, and his notorious use of it, legendary. Chloe once said she figured he developed the arrogant attitude so that he didn't get chewed up in the world of journalism - his face just didn't appear threatening enough to some editors. Hudson thought it was more likely that he could use his looks to draw any stranger into telling him their life history - including each skeleton in their closet. That was, of course, until Louis decided to open his big mouth.

Luckily, her tastes had moved on and developed a much higher level of sophistication. For all that Louis might stand 6'5", with dark hair and blue eyes and dimples when he smiled, Hudson didn't believe he could hold a candle to Lex. Louis was cute (and a jerk), and Lex was... There was no word for Lex. At least, nothing that completely defined him. She could find an entire thesaurus of words to use, but not one of them would specifically stand out as pin-pointing exactly what she felt when she looked at him, when he walked into a room, spoke her name, just stood there and breathed.

After finding their luggage, Chloe and Louis argued for a few moments as to whether Louis should be a gentleman and carry their bags for them, during which Hudson quietly gathered them into her arms and started back toward the main entrance. The cousins finally fell in step beside her, Louis snatching the luggage from her, obviously perturbed. Chloe elbowed her in the side and grinned.

Stepping outside, Louis told them his car was parked in the garage next to the conference center. They were making their way down the long line of steps when Hudson glanced out to the street to see a familiar Ferrari parked in the `No Parking' zone. Lex was leaning against it, watching her expressionlessly, dressed in his light black coat, slacks, white dress shirt and tie. Hudson couldn't contain the smile that immediately spread across her face.

"Lex!"

Taking the steps two at a time, she hurried down to him, barely stopping herself from throwing her arms around his shoulders and kissing him, just like they did last night. But they were in public, in the city, and there were reporters all over the place.

"What are you doing here?"

Lex greeted her with a small smile. "I had a business meeting this afternoon. Thought I would try to catch you and see if you wanted to go to dinner?"

Hudson was prepared to answer with a resounding `yes' when she remembered that she wasn't visiting Metropolis alone. She turned just as Chloe and Louis joined them.

"Wow, Mr. Luthor. This is brave of you," Chloe commented with a grin. "Facing masses of reporters at the steps of the convention hall."

"I've told you to call me Lex, Chloe," he replied. "And to be fair, I just got here. You're the first to see me."

"So shouting your name wouldn't be a good thing?"

"I wouldn't appreciate it, no."

Uncomfortable with the conversation, Hudson waved her hand toward Louis. "Lex, this is Louis Lane, Chloe's cousin. Louis, Lex Luthor."

Neither seemed inclined to shake hands. Apparently, Lex smelled a reporter, and Louis smelled a story. They both nodded at one another a little stiffly and Louis mumbled something about it being nice to meet him.

Lex ignored the remark and returned his gaze to Hudson. "So? What do you say?"

She wanted to say yes. She was dying to, in fact. But she had promised this weekend to Chloe, and with their recent fight, to abandon her to go out with Lex would be beyond cruel, and certainly not the make of a good friend. Sadly, she shook her head. "I'd love to, Lex. But I was headed back to Louis' apartment with Chloe. We were going to order pizza and watch... " She glanced at Chloe. "What were we going to watch?"

"All the President's Men," Chloe responded.

"Sounds like an exciting evening," Lex commented, leaving the three standing in front of him confused as to whether he was being sarcastic or not. He regarded Hudson silently before glancing over at Chloe and Louis. "Why don't the two of you join us? I promised to take Hudson to lunch for her birthday, but with my schedule lately, this has been the first opportunity."

As much as Hudson wanted to spend some time with Lex, she didn't think the idea was a good one. She was about to decline but Louis beat her to the punch.

"Sounds like a great idea," he responded. "I don't think we'll all fit in your car though." He frowned at the sports car. "Where are we headed? We'll meet you there."

"How about La Bella?" Lex suggested, removing his keys from his pocket. He glanced past Hudson's shoulder and frowned.

Following his gaze, she saw that at least two people had recognized him. One was already pulling out their camera and the other was moving quickly down the steps toward them.

Louis nodded in reply. "We'll see you there. Come on, Chloe. Smallville, you riding with us?"

Chloe turned to look at Hudson and she thought it a little rude of her friend to beseech her in this manner. Besides, she just spent the entire afternoon attending stuff panels all for Chloe's sake. She deserved a little respite. Steeling her will, she shook her head. "No. I'll ride with Lex and see you guys there."

Louis shrugged, not really caring either way. Chloe frowned for a moment but turned and followed her cousin toward the parking garage.

"We'd better get going," Lex suggested, frowning at the approaching reporter just enough to cause the man to hesitate in his steps. Turning, Lex opened the passenger side door, waiting for Hudson to climb in before closing it behind her.

They pulled into traffic and were headed down Broadway before Lex spoke again.

"How was the conference?"

"Boring." Hudson sighed, pleased that she had someone she could confess the truth to. "I wish I could share Chloe's enthusiasm but by the end of the day, I found myself wishing I could do chores instead!"

Lex chuckled. "That is bad. So perhaps journalism isn't your calling?" He glanced over at her, smiling.

"I don't think so." Hudson shook her head, then frowned. "I don't know what my calling is."

"I wouldn't worry about it. You're young yet, Hudson. You'll have plenty of time to make a decision about what you want to do with the rest of your life." He paused, switching gears and lanes, swerving through three cars before pulling back into the lane he started in. "The entire world is at your feet, angel. You can do whatever you want."

"Unfortunately, I don't think there are quite as many options for a farm girl from Smallville as there are for a tycoon's son from Metropolis."

Lex's smooth brow furrowed and he flashed a quick look at her. "People seem to think that because you have money, that automatically means you can do whatever you want in life. But it's not the case. More often than not, those born into privilege have their lives planned out for them before they're out of the crib. Like first sons born into a monarchy - they know they'll one day be king. Even if their true passion lies in music, art...

"At one time in my life, I wanted to be an astronaut. It doesn't matter. My destiny is chosen."

Hudson considered his words silently, realizing not for the first time how different her life was from his. Her parents always told her they didn't care what she did, as long as she was happy. Be it scientist, lawyer or housewife, nothing was truly expected of her except to live her life.

Worrying her lower lip, she commented, "What about King George VI? He abdicated the thrown."

Lex glanced at the rearview mirror with a half-smile. "For love."

"You say that as if he was insane to do so."

Shrugging, Lex whipped into the right hand lane to pass the car in front of him, only to then spin into a left hand turn. He didn't seem to notice Hudson's eyes grow wide at the maneuver. "It just seemed like an unnecessary risk to take - giving up what you are, what you were raised to become for something that might not last."

"You don't believe love can last?"

"I wouldn't know, Hudson." He met her eyes briefly. "Sometimes I think love was made up by poets so that they had something to write about."

"Well, I believe in love."

Lex just smiled, as if he expected that to be her answer. He was laughing at her again and Hudson realized she was used to it. In fact, it was almost comforting. It was when Lex wasn't laughing, wasn't amused by her that something was wrong. If it meant putting a smile on his face, then Hudson figured he was allowed to laugh at her as much as he wanted to.

Hudson watched him silently as he drove them deeper into the heart of the city. The sun was beginning to set and neon signs were flashing on around them. The streets were packed with people shopping, dining, sight-seeing, attending the theatre. She remembered their trip together to see `Phantom of the Opera' and wondered if Lex would be agreeable to taking her to the theatre again.

"Lex?"

"Hmmm?"

"I have to admit, I was really surprised to see you. I mean, in a good way."

He laughed. "That's a relief."

She returned his smile before asking slyly, "Did you really have a business meeting?"

"Hudson Kent, do you think I would drive all of the way from Smallville just to take you to dinner for a few hours?"

Continuing to smile at him, Hudson didn't bother to reply.


La Bella was the kind of restaurant one went to in order to impress people. It wasn't the most romantic place in town, it didn't have the best food, it didn't have the best atmosphere. But it did boast the highest prices and one of the highest paid chefs in the restaurant industry. Therefore, it was a regular eating establishment for those carrying the last name of Luthor.

The party of four was led to a private table near the window that looked out over the city. Lex pulled out Hudson's chair for her as the maitre d performed the same service for Chloe. Louis just sat down across the table from Hudson with a roll of his eyes.

"Will you be having wine tonight, Mr. Luthor?" The man asked.

Lex glanced over at Louis who shrugged in reply. Regarding him blankly for a moment, Lex finally turned back to the maitre d. "Mr. Lane and I will. The ladies will not." He looked at Chloe and Hudson. "Would you girls like a soda or tea?"

"Iced tea, please." Chloe nodded.

"Coke."

Smiling at both of them, the man hurried off.

"So, I take it you come here often, Mr. Luthor?" Louis inquired, reaching out for one of the glasses of water that had magically appeared on their table.

"Call me Lex," Lex replied smoothly with a practiced smile. "My father helped finance it's opening. But then, all of Metropolis knows that all ready."

Louis raised an eyebrow at the comment but didn't respond.

Hudson glanced over the menu as she cast furtive glances toward the two men. Something weird was going on there but she couldn't figure it out. She didn't want to believe that Louis was rude enough to attempt to conduct an interview all through dinner, and she refused to think that Lex was rude enough to immediately believe the same thing. But then, they both appeared to be doing exactly that.

"Wow. I can't pronounce half the words on this thing," Chloe commented in a near-whisper to Hudson while frowning down at her menu.

Chloe had a point. Hudson believed they were here only because Chloe and Louis were with them and Lex had an image to maintain. Had it been just them, had they been given the opportunity to go on their own, she was almost positive that they would have been eating at Town Topic again, or maybe even Torrie's Pizza. Unfortunately, very few were allowed a glimpse at the real Lex. And while that caused Hudson to feel oddly special, there were times she wished that everyone around her could see the person she saw.

She couldn't imagine Lionel Luthor being pleased by such a thing, though.

Small talk was the main form of conversation as drinks arrived and hors d'oeuvres were ordered. Lex asked polite questions about the conference, listened intently to Chloe as she enthused over each and every panel she attended and then queried Louis as to where he was attending school and graduating. He showed absolutely no change of expression as Louis explained that he was graduating in six weeks - and that he already had a position secured with the Daily Planet. Hudson glanced over at Chloe who mouthed `Told you so!'. She made a slight face, wondering how safe it was to have someone who was basically already a reporter for one of the most critical and daring papers in the country. She could only imagine how fast they would run with the story if they knew about her and Lex. She made a mental note to attempt to behave as normally as possible for the rest of the evening.

Well, as far as whatever normal was for her.

"Don't the two of you have a big dance coming up?" Lex asked as he scooped a small helping of what he early explained to be Coriander Seared Tuna and Lobster Risotto into the tiny plate at her left.

She couldn't help but smile at how easily he served her, as if he had always done so. "Ummm... the Spring Formal. Yes. It's in three weeks. I... really wasn't thinking about going though."

Lex frowned, passing the plate of tuna to Louis. "Why not?"

"We don't have dates," Chloe replied with a shrug. "Which is a little embarrassing, considering Pete is going with Erica Foxx."

Hudson rolled her eyes with a grin. "Yeah. And he won't shut up about it, either."

"Just because you don't have dates doesn't mean you shouldn't attend," Lex commented, focusing his gaze on Hudson. "It's high school. You should take advantage of every social opportunity."

"God knows he did," Louis commented blandly.

Lex turned a keen gaze to the man beside him. "If you are referring to the exaggerated stories of my `wild' youth, I'm afraid you would be extremely disappointed to know that I didn't do more than half of what has been written."

Louis shrugged, making it plainly evident that he didn't believe a word Lex just said. Truthfully, Hudson didn't either but then, she wasn't the one who was used to dealing with the press, so she remained silent.

After a moment's silence, Lex turned back to Hudson and Chloe. "I really believe the two of you should stag it together. You're free to use the limousine, if you would like."

Hudson and Chloe glanced at one another in confirmation quickly before Hudson looked back at Lex and asked, "How about the Maserati? Can we take that instead?"

Lex raised an eyebrow in amusement at her question, while his gaze firmly stated a negative response.

Chloe patted Hudson's hand as she sighed. "It's okay. You tried."

"Must be nice to have such wealthy friends."

Hudson glanced over at Louis' remark. "What's that supposed to mean?"

"Oh, he's just jealous," Chloe burst in promptly. "Louis never attended a single dance in high school. He's bitter."

"Bite me, Chloe."

"No, thanks. I've had better offers."

Lex remained silent, a slim index finger tapping lightly against the stem of his wine glass as he regarded first Chloe and then Louis. Hudson was beyond embarrassed at their behavior. She knew it was a bad idea for the four of them to go out to eat - she should have swallowed back her need to spend time with Lex and sent him on his way. Pizza and a political leftist movie about the ultimate in journalistic scoops was sounding better and better at the moment.

Their server came by to remove the empty hors d'oeuvre plates and take their orders. Hudson glanced over her menu furtively while Chloe ordered. She started slightly when she heard Lex whisper in to her ear, "Order that one." His finger pointed to a selection on the menu. "I think you'll like it."

Turning her head just slightly, she found she was almost nose to nose with him. She smiled. "Positive?"

He returned the smile very slightly. "Positively."

Hudson felt his fingers brush across her knee and she wished she'd been wearing a skirt instead of the pantsuit her mother suggested. She wanted to feel his fingers on her skin again. Barely noticing that it was her turn to order, Hudson switched her attention from Lex to the server who stood patiently by her side. Apparently, the dish Lex had pointed out was actually just a filet. He was right - it likely was the one item on the menu she would have preferred above the others. Sometimes it amazed her that Lex knew her so well, that he paid attention to the little things that she doubted her oldest friends even knew about her.

After their meals were ordered, Chloe poked Hudson in the elbow. She looked at her friend with a half-frown. "What?"

"Come to the restroom with me," she whispered.

"I think you're old enough to make that trip on your own," Hudson replied in amusement.

It was Chloe's turn to frown as she tugged on Hudson's sleeve. "No, I think you want to come to the restroom with me - now."

Oh, it was one of those restroom trips.

Barely having enough time to excuse them from the table, Hudson stood, smiling at Lex as he rose to his feet as well - did they really still raise boys like that??? - and Chloe grabbed hold of her hand, pulling her away. She made an awkward stumble, glared at her friend, and then hurriedly followed her through the restaurant towards the restrooms that were located near the elevators where they first entered the establishment.

Once inside, the door slowly swinging closed behind them, Chloe whirled around to confront Hudson. "Okay, what the hell is going on out there? What did I miss?"

Hudson blinked. "Ummm... I don't get it. What are you talking about?"

Folding her arms over her chest, Chloe tapped her foot impatiently. "You. Lex. Him showing up out of nowhere to take you to dinner."

"So he wanted to go to dinner?" Hudson shrugged, moving past Chloe to stand in front of the vanity mirror and brush her fingers through her hair. "What's so odd about that?"

"Oh. Nothing - except for the fact that Smallville is almost three hours away. One doesn't generally drive that far to take a friend out to eat while she's at a conference." Chloe leaned against the counter, staring up at her with a questioning gaze. "Not even Lex Luthor is that eccentric."

"He had a meeting."

"Bull."

Hudson turned to look at Chloe, unable to restrain her smile. "Are you calling Lex a liar?"

"Is he a Luthor?"

Silence. Hudson stared at her friend for a moment before glancing back into the mirror. Her nose looked crooked. Was it? She leaned closer, pushing it from side to side until she was almost positive it wasn't completely straight.

"You're ignoring my question."

"You mean about Lex being a Luthor?"

Chloe sighed dramatically.

"Oh, fine." Turning to lean back against the vanity, Hudson looked once toward the door then back to her friend. "Last night... Well, after the funeral, I ran into Lex and he... well, he was kind of upset from some things that have been going on in his life. We went back to his place and... and I made a move."

Chloe's eyes flew open wide. "You what?!"

"I made a move," Hudson announced proudly, nodding once, chin high. "All on my own, too. I thought my heart was going to beat right out of my chest I was so freaked about it! But he didn't push me away or anything - of course, the fact that I kind of begged might have had something to do with it."

"What happened?" Her friend moved in close, gaze intent.

"Well, we kissed. A lot. And I found out that Lex likes to have his earlobe sucked on... "

"Was there touching involved? Groping?"

"Y... yeah."

"Over clothing or under?"

Hudson didn't need to look in the mirror to know that her face was deep red. "Ummm... both."

Chloe's eyes opened impossibly wider. "Did you - " She cut off when the bathroom door opened and a matronly woman entered, smiling at the two girls. They returned the smile, remaining silent, watching surreptitiously as she moved into one of the stalls, closing the door behind her. Chloe scooted closer and continued in a whisper, "Was there nakedness?"

"Chloe!" Hudson whispered back in shock.

"Oh, come on! You can't half share! That's teasing!" Her voice rose a little.

Hudson shushed her quickly, glancing back into the restroom before grabbing Chloe's arm and pulling her over to the couch in the corner. They sat down, Chloe practically bouncing with excitement over new gossip.

"Okay." She couldn't believe she was about to give her friend this much information, with which she would likely torture Hudson for the next few weeks. "Yes, there was some nakedness - "

"Yours? His? Both? Is he bald everywhere?"

Hudson stared at her friend in stunned silence for a moment. "I... er... Chloe!"

"Inquiring minds want to know!"

"Inquiring minds always want to know," she accused. Then admitted, "And I don't have that information yet anyway."

"Oh. So the nakedness was on your part then." She sounded disappointed.

"Yes. A little."

Chloe pondered this information quietly, staring at the bright red rug on the ground at their feet. She looked back up at Hudson, eyes glowing with more questions. "Did you like it? I mean, when he touched you and stuff? Was it just hands? Or did he use his mouth?"

Finding herself warming to the conversation, Hudson told her, "Mouth, too. And yes, I liked it. A lot. It was very, very nice. Lex has really soft hands and his mouth is really warm - "

"I can't believe you did this, H.C.!" Her friend exclaimed, grabbing her hand. "Your parents are going to kill you!"

"No, I don't think they will."

"They'll kill Lex, then." Chloe considered her comment, then added, "Which, you have to admit, will make a lot of people happy."

"Chloe!" Hudson glared at her friend, frustration mounting. "If you ever want me to share with you again, then you'd better lighten up on the remarks."

"Christ, H.C., he's just using you for sex, you know. There's no sense in trying to make him nobler than he is."

Hudson couldn't believe Chloe just said that. She stared at her angrily for the next few moments, while the woman exited the stall, washed her hands, applied some powder, then flashed them both another smile before leaving the restroom.

"You don't know Lex, and you don't know anything about our relationship."

"Well, maybe that's because you never tell me anything," Chloe snapped, climbing to her feet restlessly. "Either I have to guess from what I see when you're following him around town or make up with my own imagination during all the times you've blown me off to spend time with Lex."

"I thought we've already covered this?" Hudson sighed in exasperation. "Chloe, I haven't blown you off - at all. I've already said I was sorry about forgetting the journalism conference, and I made up for it - "

"Then why are we here, now, with Lex, instead of at the apartment eating pizza?"

She shook her head. "I told Lex no. I refused his invitation. I was going to do so when he included all four of us but your cousin accepted. That wasn't my fault."

"You're glad to be here, though."

"Not at the moment," Hudson muttered, perturbed. She stood to look down at her friend. "Look, Chloe, the reason I never tell you what is going on with Lex and I is because you have been against our friendship from the beginning. I don't like talking about him with you when all you ever do is put him down. Sometimes you're worse than my father in that respect, and I have enough trouble dealing with him. Can't you just be happy for me? Can't you just listen and be a friend and think that maybe, just maybe, I might be a good judge of character in this instance?"

Chloe was silent, pouting, arms folded defensively as she stared into the restroom. Eventually, a small smile appeared. "Well, I guess you do have a better track record going than me."

Hudson laughed. "Yeah. Lex has yet to try to turn me into a human popsicle."

Chloe nodded, her smile growing. She regarded Hudson silently before reaching out to touch her arm. "I'm sorry. I just... Sometimes I think we're not friends anymore. I used to be the one you always went to when you needed to talk. Now, it seems like you go to Lex instead."

"Maybe you're right." Hudson glanced down at her feet, poking at the carpet with the toe of her shoe. "It's just... there are some things I think Lex understands about me that most people don't. I'm not saying you wouldn't but a lot of times, when stuff happens, he's there when I need him to be. It's just circumstances and timing." She paused and looked back at Chloe. "And, I do like him, Chloe. A lot. A lot lot."

"Like love?"

Hudson hesitated a moment before nodding. "Yeah. Like love. It doesn't mean you're any less important to me. It doesn't mean I don't need you. It's just... he's a part of my life now, too, and I don't want to give that up. Whether it lasts or not."

Chloe drew a deep breath and then nodded. "Okay. I guess I can understand that. And I am sorry for not being more supportive. It's got to be hard, with your parents and all. You could probably use someone on your side, huh?"

"You have no idea," Hudson replied in relief.

On impulse, they hugged one another tightly, the past two weeks of constant bickering instantly falling away.

As Chloe pulled back, she smoothed a piece of Hudson's hair down that had become misplaced. Grinning slyly, she commented, "Besides, I still want to know if Lex is bald everywhere or not."

Rolling her eyes, Hudson grabbed her friend's arm, and led her back into the restaurant.

Dinner went better than expected. Though the girls returned to a table of silence, Lex and Louis were at least polite to one another throughout the rest of the meal. Surprisingly, the four were able to find a few topics they all agreed on - such as movies and books and a few television shows - and the conversation flowed without interruption.

All too soon, the evening ended.

Gathered in the elevator that would take them down to the street, Hudson leaned back against the wall beside Lex, staring at Louis and Chloe who were standing in front of them. She felt Lex's finger accidentally brush up against hers, then realized it wasn't accidental when his pinky briefly closed around hers, squeezing slightly before letting go. Space appeared between them once more, though Hudson was left with a slight smile on her face.

As they stepped out onto the street, Louis explained that he didn't feel like paying for a valet so they were parked in a garage two blocks down. Lex didn't comment as Chloe suggested she and her cousin get the car and come back to pick up Hudson so that she and Lex could say goodbye. Louis' eyebrow raised with her remark and he turned to examine Lex and Hudson closely, both of whom simply returned his stare, like matching bookends. Shrugging, he agreed and Chloe hurried him down the street, turning to call out a quick `thank you' to Lex for dinner.

"I take it she knows," Lex commented, handing his ticket to the valet before taking Hudson by the elbow and directing her to a secluded area beneath the awning of the building.

"Yeah. I kind of told her." Hudson looked up into his eyes. God, they were blue tonight. "You're not angry, are you?"

"Not as long as she doesn't turn this into a story for the National Enquirer."

Chloe's favorite phrase `Inquiring minds want to know', flashed through Hudson's mind and she couldn't help but smile. "No. She won't." She paused as Lex's arms moved around her waist and he pulled her close while leaning back against the wall. There was something very intimate about the gesture. She leaned into him just a little. "Mom knows."

Lex's expression didn't change. "And?"

"She told me to be careful."

"Good advice." Lex brushed his fingers against her neck. "What about your father?"

"That's... I'm working up to it."

He smiled.

"Lex?"

"Yeah?"

"Why are you here? Really?"

His smile faded a little, his gaze dropping from her eyes to her lips and back up again. One finger trailed over her cheek. "Would you believe I missed you?"

A scream of absolute joy threatened. Somehow, Hudson contained it. "Really?"

Lex's brow rose slightly at her question. "Do you need proof?"

Hudson was about to reply but found she couldn't once his mouth covered hers. Fortunately, his kiss was all the proof she needed.


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